Saturday, June 04, 2005

Some Bio News from SciAm

Cave Bear DNA Sequencing Could Be Boon for Human Evolution Studies
Rather than first replicating the DNA with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as is typical, the investigators cut to the chase and sequenced the ancient DNA directly, using computing technology developed for modern genome projects. Much of what they sequenced turned out to be microbial contaminants, as expected, but 6 percent was cave bear DNA, including bits of 21 genes.

Having demonstrated the validity of their technique on cave bear DNA, the team is hoping to apply it to other remains. "Next we would like to access and evaluate genomic information about other hominid species, Neandertals in particular, as they represent probably our closest prehistoric relative," Rubin comments.

Hormone Elicits Trust in Humans
According to the researchers, oxytocin increased investor trust markedly, with 45 percent of the oxytocin group exhibiting the highest trust level, compared to just 21 percent of the placebo group. The team rejected the possibility that oxytocin might be promoting risk-taking in general, rather than social risk-taking specifically, because when investors were paired with a computer trustee instead of a human one they did not take such risks.

Describing the work today in the journal Nature,Kosfeld and his collaborators acknowledge that their findings could be misused. They add, however, that the work could ultimately help patients with mental disorders associated with social dysfunction, such as those afflicted with autism or social phobia.

Ubiquitous Chemical Associated with Abnormal Human Reproductive Development
Researchers have identified a link between exposure in the womb to widely used chemicals known as phthalates and adverse effects on genital development in male babies, according to a new report. Previous toxilogical studies had suggested that fetal exposure to the chemicals can affect reproductive development in rodents, but the new results indicate that developing humans could be vulnerable as well.

Phthalates are common components of items ranging from plastics to paints to personal care products such as nail polish and shampoo.

No comments: